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NV Democratic Caucus: Clinton Wins, But Some Voters Were Left Confused

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Joe Schoenmann/KNPR
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Caucus goers line up outside Cheyenne High School Saturday.

Nevada Democratic caucus-goers found long lines at sites in the Las Vegas and Reno areas as they arrived to make their choices between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

With thousands showing up to vote at various sites, the lines were long, people waited hours to vote, and frustrations sometimes boiled over into shouting.

Yet, somehow, it worked. And through it all emerged a victor: Hillary Clinton.

Clinton and  Sanders had crisscrossed the state in recent days seeking last-minute support. 

Sanders held rallies and Clinton dropped in at casino employee cafeterias.

Clinton believed she had the state locked down, but a recent surge by Sanders in the polls changed that. 

Political pundits believed the two would be in a dead heat; however, in the end, the delegate count was 28 for Clinton and 12 for Sanders. 

About 500 people showed up to caucus at Rancho High School in Las Vegas.

KNPR producer and State of Nevada co-host Carrie Kaufman estimated 70 percent of the people wore T-shirts in support of Hillary Clinton.

The caucuses are not secret ballots. After everyone is sorted into their designated precincts, they divide up based on who they support.

Those in favor of Clinton would go to one side of the room; those for Bernie Sanders would go to the other. Then it’s a simple counting of hands.

Clinton won with roughly 52 percent of the vote to Sanders’ 48 percent. That means that 52 percent of the delegates chosen from the caucus will be Clinton supporters; 48 percent will be Sanders’ supporters.

It isn’t a winner-take-all vote.

At least, not in most cases.

One of the Rancho High School precincts had one delegate to fight over. But only two people showed up. One for Clinton, one for Sanders. So it went to a game of high-card, low-card to decide the winner.

The Bernie Sanders supporter won.

“Yes! Yes! Change!” he yelled to his 2-year-old son, who was running around the room. “This is democracy in action. This is how it works.”

At Cheyenne High School in North Las Vegas, the line of people stretched out of the school and down the street.

Part of the delay was caused by the fact that the Democrats set up same-day registration. A caucus worker told KNPR News that the computers crashed almost from the start, so registration took much longer than expected.

But in one of the classrooms designated for Precinct 2607, people were not happy. When a caucus captain asked how many were attending their first caucus, most of the people raised their hand.

One man yelled, “And it’s my last one!”

There was confusion of another sort at Henderson’s Del Webb Middle School.

Utah Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz, whose district includes parts of Salt Lake City, showed up to watch the process and show his support for Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio.

“It’s American democracy in action,” Chaffetz said. “I think it’s a great thing. I hope as many people as possible come out. I also hope that republicans do the right thing and put forward Marco Rubio to run again whomever the democrats come up with.”

While some people left the caucus sites before voting, choosing to leave rather than wait a few hours, many more stayed. Passions for their candidates ran deep.

At Rancho High School, parent Olga de la Cruz looked at her 8-year-old daughter as she explained why she was so committed to Hillary Clinton.

“Her being a mother, I think she understands what we truly need - what I needed when I was raising a kid on my own,” she said, tears welling in her eyes.

She recited a recent Clinton television ad where she tells a young girl not to worry about immigration, saying "Let me do the worrying.”

“I like she really goes out there and fights for what she thinks is right for people. She doesn’t tell people just what they want to hear. She actually goes out there and does – not just when there are elections here – but throughout her entire life. And that’s amazing.”

(The Associated Press contributed to this story)

Steve Sebelius, KNPR contributor, columnist for the  Las Vegas Review-Journal and host of  Politics NOW on KLAS-TV;  Carrie Kaufman, host and producer,  KNPR's State of NevadaFred Wasser, producer,  KNPR's State of Nevada

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Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.
Casey Morell is the coordinating producer of Nevada Public Radio's flagship broadcast State of Nevada and one of the station's midday newscast announcers. (He's also been interviewed by Jimmy Fallon, whatever that's worth.)
Natalie is an Emmy-award winning journalist who has worked in the Las Vegas market since August 1996, starting as a newscast producer for KLAS-TV Channel 8, and later as an online editor for 8newsnow.com.
Since June 2015, Fred has been a producer at KNPR's State of Nevada.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Carrie Kaufman no longer works for KNPR News. She left in April 2018)